No Support

I was reading an article this morning about a social networking site known as Urban Baby.

Urban Baby was part of the first wave of confessional Internet women’s writing about parenting, one that occurred in tandem with our society’s withdrawal of support for parents and children, and the simultaneous ratcheting up of expectations of what makes for good mothering. Blogs like Dooce — that’s Heather Armstrong, also known as the “queen of the mommy bloggers” — wrote openly about struggles with postnatal depression, while others took on the challenges of raising a special-needs child.

This new world of parenting was challenging and liberating, but, most importantly, optimistic. There was the almost-always unspoken assumption that the Internet was going to change the world of mothering for the better.

But that did not happen. For all the delights of the mom blogosphere, its members fell into a trap all too common to our time: We might kvetch about our problems jointly, but we struggle, for the most part, alone.

Despite, say, all the online chatter about the struggle to get a child into a “TT” — that’s Urban Baby lingo for top-tier — private or public school, very few connected their struggles to the greater society and economy causing their woes. Rare was the moment on Urban Baby when someone asked why there were so few TT schools — it was simply yet another problem to surmount. That remained true as the mothering blogosphere and forums lost ground to social media, to Instagram posts by neighbors and celebrity influencers alike about the wonderfulness of their parenting lives.

For my part, I belong to a mom’s group that started out connecting only by email and eventually ended up on Facebook.  All of our children are turning 16 years old this year.  We all conceived within that brave new world of reproductive technology.  We have been together since before we knew we were successful.  We met once when the children were two years old at Elmo’s World.  I’m so glad we did.  One of our more outspoken moms died from breast cancer some time ago and it was heart-wrenching.  She was our second loss to cancer.  More than one of our mom’s lost their spouse in one way or another during our time together.  Only the current politics has divided us and that is bittersweet indeed but all of us are trying – to hold onto what unites us and not pick at the wounds of the country that affect us as well.

Yet that ambitious appetite for change was desperately needed, as our current covid-19 world is making all too clear. We are — even in a life-altering pandemic — the only developed country not to offer paid family leave or sick days to all. Nearly a fifth of families with children under the age of 12 are reporting they do not have enough food.

Children have been out of school since March, and for many, there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight, except for more in the way of subpar online classes that need parental supervision. And forget complaining about the high cost of child care: Our decision to leave it almost fully to the free market may well result, according to the Center for American Progress, in the loss of millions of child-care slots. This combination might well turn out to be cataclysmic — not just for children, but for their mothers, who, minus the child care offered by school, might well find themselves permanently exiting the workplace.

On Urban Baby this week there were final goodbyes, one last show of virtual hands for Zip codes, and final reasons they were here before everyone scattered. As one poster pointed out, “UB has been a release valve for all of the pent-up frustration and all of the challenges of modern motherhood.” No doubt. But, ultimately, emotional release is a thin gruel.

Mothers, fathers and their children need more — more help, more support, more resources. This was true before the current crisis, and it’s even more true now. When it comes to the online world of parenting, the biggest failure is not one of organization. It’s that for all their complaints, all too many of the people doing the talking on sites like Urban Baby still believe that they can individually surmount the ever-increasing challenges of American life rather than changing the system that underlies them. Until that mind-set changes, nothing else will.

My thanks to Helaine Olen’s op-ed in The Washington Post (for all of this except my personal comments).

 

Somehow Adoption Continues

Catch me if you can.  Has the effort to adopt hit a pause button given the current circumstances ?  It seems it has not.

With the outbreak of COVID-19, our daily lives have all been affected in a way that none of us were anticipating just a few weeks ago. So you might think that now isn’t the ideal time to consider adoption.  The for profit adoption industry does not think so.

One adoption blog seems to be saying “now is actually a great time to begin or reinvigorate your adoption plans. Difficult times bring a greater need for adoptive parents.  Adoptions have increased in the past few weeks because women want more for their children and babies. They are turning to adoption during the coronavirus.”

Desperate times seem to increase desperation.  Somehow we lose the sense that this is all temporary.  The uncertainty causes us to question our ability to meet the challenge and survive.

This adoption agency wants to encourage more adoptions, even in the midst of this crisis, it appears that they have sensed this as a marketing opportunity.  They note – “with the world in turmoil and with financial situations uncertain, we find that more women are contacting us, looking for a stable, loving family to adopt their baby. They love their child enough to do what is best for them. They know they need a family stable enough to weather the storm. A family that will be able to protect and care for their child no matter the circumstances.”

Well fear does this to people but the decision to surrender your child is a permanent solution.  It actually reflects a lack of trust that the future will be better and that we will all get through this somehow.  It causes a young woman to doubt herself as capable.  This is a sad state of affairs.

It is true that people are generally stressed now.  That should not make it a good time to take advantage of a woman in a state of hyped up fear.  One expectant mother shared what she is going through right now –

“Some family friends of mine are giving their (unsolicited) opinion that I should seriously consider adoption since I am currently unemployed and it is not realistic for me to get a job amidst the virus, being pregnant and having had asthma as a kid. They seem to think I need to make the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ and give her ‘a good life’. If the only people who can give a child a good life are the few that can properly afford to adopt, then huge demographics of people are morally wrong for having children apparently. Including the people who said I should place her. I was so upset that I was crying yesterday, just for being told that.”

Let’s have more compassion people.

Birth COVID19 And Visitors

You probably already know this but the rules have decidedly changed.  For expectant mothers, giving birth at this time can be fraught with more than the usual anxiety.  For an expectant mother considering adoption for her newborn, all the more so.  And yet, it may also be a silver lining that hospitals are limiting visitors due to the COVID19 virus.

Adoptees have long suggested to these kinds of expectant mothers not to allow the hopeful adoptive parents to be present during labor and delivery nor for some days after birth.  The adoptive parents will have a lifetime to bond with your baby.  If you are truly determined to go through with relinquishing your baby, at least take this time to spend with the delicious reality of new life – especially during a time when death is dominating the news.

The hospital staff has the ability to support you through your birthing experience.  They have been through this many many times and in such a time as this, when extra precautions will keep both you and your baby safe from contracting the virus, it is all for the good.

It has long been felt, especially if you are not 100% convinced that giving your baby up for adoption is the right thing to do, that the presence of the hopeful adoptive parents at such a time is coercive.  Surrender is a permanent solution to a temporary situation.  None of us know what the future will look like after the threat of this virus passes.

Many of the mothers who gave up an infant regret their decision the rest of their lives.  It is a lifelong sorrow no matter how necessary it may seem at the moment.  If you are considering relinquishment and have access to an original mother who made that choice many years ago, do listen to her.  And be grateful the hospital is limiting visitors at this time – it is for the good on so many levels.

Is COVID19 A Real Excuse ?

If you are worried about continuing visits for your foster children with their original families, what can you do ?

For one – put masks on everyone, wash hands and faces, visit anyway.

If your agency can keep the visiting areas cleaned and no one is showing any symptoms – there should be no reason why such visits should be cancelled.

Of course, if anyone in the family is high risk, then it is only prudent to find another way to visit until everything blows over.  Many families are staying in touch using easy to obtain technologies – zoom, skype or facetime.

Some visits have taken place in libraries but they may close.  Division offices may not be able to support the volume of visits that would have to move there, if the library doesn’t remain open.  Home visits could prove to be a logistical nightmare with all the rules and policies that are in place.  Even public places like a fast food locations with play area may not be wise in light of the pandemic because their ability to keep areas clean enough may be lacking.  There are even some public parks now closed to the public.

People who work in the medical field do suggest postponing in person visits until the potential impact is mitigated. Social isolation is key to limit the spread (especially for those persons who are at high risk for complications).  The reality is a person can be asymptomatic and still be a carrier.

So again, the best suggestion for staying in touch at this time is video visits.  No one should be going in and out of other people’s homes or apartments. You may not have symptoms but could still be contagious. The best way to protect the vulnerable in all of our communities is to self isolate as much as possible.  We all have to do things – like shop for necessary items and food.  In our family and many I know of – only one person is going to risk such exposure with the understanding they may become infected.  This is the reality we are currently living through.

I would not want to see foster parents during this time use COVID19 as an excuse “in the best interest of the child” to limit reunification possibilities with the children’s original parents.